3 Ways to Boost Your Community Building

Americans tell and average of 9 people about good experiences, and tell 16 people (nearly twice as much) about poor experiences. - American Express Survey, 2011

The need to complain is always stronger than the need to praise. Customers complain much more often than they write in to tell us we’re doing a great job. Husbands and wives typically don’t praise each other enough. The evidence for the destructive nature of bad service experiences is everywhere because we are all flawed. We all make mistakes. How one handles failure can set them above the rest - and so it goes with business.

Here are 3 community and social media related activities linked to service that will boost your understanding and your customer’s feelings towards your brand:

  1. Reach out to the dissatisfied. Considering that most of your dissatisfied customers will not contact you, how are you reaching out to them? Do you have tools and a plan in place to recover these customers?
  2. Ask the happy to help. Nothing beats the power of word-of-mouth advertising. Nothing. Recruit, encourage, reward, and supply your happy customers so they can spread the good news of your great company.
  3. Empower your service agents. If you don’t work quickly to make amends for mistakes, you may miss out on many opportunities. Give your agents the training, tools and authority they need to start making it better on the spot.

4 Ways to Measure the Quality of Your Service

80% of companies say they deliver superior customer service.  8% of customers say that those same companies deliver superior customer service. - Lee Resources

We lie to ourselves all the time, so it’s no surprise that many customer service departments think they’re doing better than they actually are. If you do not measure the results of your customer service or you’re using the wrong measures, then you will never understand how to move the satisfaction numbers up. Most companies make the mistake of pushing metrics based on revenue, which is why you get angry agents when you try to cancel your service. Designating the correct metrics for customer service starts with focus on customer happiness - money and positive brand image will follow.

Here are 4 ideas to consider when defining how you want to measure your service:

  1. Ask your customers how they feel about your service. How do you survey customers who had a recent experience with your agents? If you don’t, you must. If you do, how successful are your data gathering efforts and why? Too many company leaders treat customer sentiment as anecdotal. You can measure this stuff too.
  2. How long do your customers have to wait before they are served?No one likes to wait, but this is even more true in our increasingly fast and mobile culture. Remember, however, quality before speed. Spend as long as it takes to help your customer, but get in front of them quickly.
  3. Do you resolve problems? If your agents do not have the power to fix the problem or cannot give detailed information on when the problem will be fixed, it doesn’t matter how polite they are - people don’t like broken things.
  4. Are your customers repeat customers? One of the main goals of good customer service is customer loyalty. Treat them well, keep your product or service relevant, and they’ll continue to support your business.

3 Tips for Better Customer Service Answers

According to consumers, customer service agents failed to answer their questions 50% of the time - Harris Interactive

If you are serious about providing great customer service, you will always want to answer your customer’s questions. The goal for this metric should be 100 percent. Imagine you were in a relationship with someone who only answered your questions half the time - danger, madness, breakup, doom. Unfortunately, non-answers have become industry standard, as companies try to obfuscate rather than inform. The only thing you gain with communication policies like this is angry former-customers and brand damage.

Here are 3 ways to improve your answers:

  1. Answer the question asked of you. Your answer can be tactful, respectful, polite, funny, detailed, but it must address the question head on. If I want to know if I can add bacon to that, please tell me yes or no.

  2. Offer to give me the details after your answer. Giving me a bunch of reasons without a definite answer is maddening and makes me feel like you’re just wasting my time. Telling me no without giving an explanation is terse and makes me feel less than human.

  3. Study. You should know what you’re talking about, but if you don’t, please tell me and excuse yourself to find the answer or connect me with someone else. If you don’t know, don’t be content with leaving the conversation unresolved. “Staring” at someone in person, in chat, or on the phone is always uncomfortable. So….

Your customers don’t have the time or patience for non-answers and deflection - most likely you’ve already messed up, so start making it better, fast.

Blizzard's Recent Private Server Shutdown and Why You Should Always Respond

Recently, Blizzard shutdown a large private server running what players lovingly refer to as "Vanilla WoW", the original version of World of Warcraft. This move has been making waves in the Internet, all without an official Blizzard response. There's even a petition for Blizzard to allow private servers that do not make any money running the game.

Blizzard is fully in the right to shutdown all private servers running their games. Not only is this a legal right, it is a smart move that protects the brand and the business. This might not be what people are expecting to hear from me, but as a former business owner, I understand that it is absolutely important for companies to maintain control over their creations. They made it and they own it.

Making WoW Legacy servers is not a smart business move and should not be done. 150,000 players is not that big of a number compared to the rest of their business. Sure, perhaps the 30 day active player number is a bit larger, but Activision Blizzard is one of the top companies in the industry. As a indie developer, I was very happy to break the 10,000 player mark on my first app, but these numbers are peanuts and do not amount to much in business terms. Internet buzz seems to highlight the 800k accounts, but that is not a good number to use when trying to convince a business to make significant investments.

Creating, maintaining, and managing legacy WoW servers would be more expensive than people think. Perception is everything, but if you do a quick number crunch, you will find that it is not favorable from a business perspective. Sure, you can speculate that 150k users paying $5 a month would make it worthwhile, but that is not guaranteed. Perhaps the legacy server community should do a Kickstarter to prove whether the idea is viable or not. My bet is that most of them do not want to pay for anything, but I would love to be wrong.

There are opportunities for Blizzard to gain from this exchange in brand image and manpower. The only part I disagree with in this move is how Blizzard has chosen to remain silent. The goal of public relations with your community is not to make everyone happy. The Internet will rage on regardless, but what a thoughtful response does is protect the brand by minimizing damage. A different approach could be outlined like this:

  • Contact the server administrators to initiate dialogue and work together to reach an agreement on a self-shutdown if possible. Persuasion, diplomacy, and soft power before hard.
  • If a self-shutdown cannot be agreed upon, create a statement that acknowledges the achievements of the community and its love for the game in its Vanilla state.
  • Either way, work with the community to create a short tribute video so they can celebrate before the shutdown. Include some short appreciation comments from the original development team.
  • Invite some key engineers and GMs from the community to apply at Activision Blizzard.
  • Kindly refer all Internet Tough Guys and critics to the careful process and effort the company put into diplomacy and appreciation with the understanding that people will still hate.
  • Shut it down.

7 Tips to Create a World-Class Self Help Customer Service System

The trend towards self-help options will only increase over time, as it is almost always faster to get the answers you need and can drastically reduce the need for large customer service teams. If you have not spent the time, however, to set these systems up with the most concise and clear information your business will suffer. Here are 7 things to consider as you create and organize your FAQs and other self-help options:

  • Provide comprehensive, but concise information - complete and detailed answers are helpful, partial information is frustrating.
  • Cover as many topics as possible - if I can't find what I'm looking for then I'll have to contact your customer service team, which increases your costs.
  • Pictures are cool - because many of us learn better from seeing it done.
  • Videos are super cool - because this is the better version of still pictures.
  • Measure how helpful your information is - because you need to know if you need improvement to your self-help resources and how to improve them.
  • Make it easy to search and organize it well - because if it's too hard to find, I will hate your company and your product or service.
  • Make it easy to ask for help - because no system is perfect and sometimes people just want to reach a human being.


Phone Support is Not Dead!

The more complex or difficult a customer service request is, the more people prefer talking to a person on the phone. While we are seeing minor gains in the popularity of live chat, there is still a significant gap between those numbers. 37 percent of people prefer the phone for a complex issue compared to 12 percent and 48 percent prefer the phone compared to 4 percent for difficult situations. Both of these channels offer the value of a live person on the other end, but there are layers of value that still remain in the phone conversation, especially in the human voice. I had a terrible experience with Google Play Store support over chat that might not have happened if we were talking on the phone.

I was born and raised in the Silicon Valley, a place where we often get ahead of ourselves by making grand pronouncements that are sometimes premature. One of the most recent I’ve heard in customer service circles is how the phone and web are dead. They are not and it would be foolish for any company serious about service to dismiss them. It’s in the numbers my friends.